Rome’s Last Citizen

“A truly outstanding piece of work. What most impresses me is the book’s ability to reach through the confusing dynastic politics of the late Roman Republic to present social realities in a way intelligible to the modern reader.

-David Frum, DailyBeast columnist, former White House speech writer, and New York Timesbestselling author of The Right Man 

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Cato the Younger, who famously committed suicide in 46 BCE rather than submit to Julius Caesar, symbolized republican liberty to both contemporaries like Cicero, who wrote a lost panegyric, and American patriots like George Washington, who staged Addison’s Cato at Valley Forge.

Suspecting that the actual Cato might not completely sustain the idealized version, Goodman and Soni set the Stoic senator amid the convulsions of the late Roman Republic. Summarizing Cato as “a lifelong project of calculated anachronism,” they show him upholding strict adherence to Rome’s constitution, inveighing against money’s corruption of elections and trials, and setting an example of probity in his management of the state treasury and the province of Cyrus. But in an era of populist tumult and riots in the Forum, Cato’s republican rectitude resulted in serial political defeats. It’s in private that Cato seems less perfect and more real as Goodman and Soni speculate about, for example, Cato’s divorce and remarriage to the same woman.

Written in flowing, nonacademic prose, this biography suits the never-waning popular interest in the dramas of ancient Roman history.

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